HOMETOWN: Sonora, CA
FARM TYPE / CROPS: Turkey! Plus composting program but our core is turkey farming.
FARM LOCATION: Sonora, CA
FARM NAME: Deistel Family Ranch
- Music: 90’s country fan! Currently loving "Bluebird" by Miranda Lambert, but love traditional Tanya Tucker.
- Food: Turkey!
- Drinks: Margarita – 3-ingredient style: no sugar and good tequila!
- Blue Jeans: Wranglers!
- Thing to do AFTER work: Go home, see kiddos, and be outside, garden a bit, pull weeds, be out of the office.
- Movie Stars: RomCom...not into TV, but if so, Reese Witherspoon
- Tractor: Old cool tractors
- Mantra: "Durability counts!"
What do you think a big MISCONCEPTION is about TURKEY farming?Well, there’s not a lot of young folks in farming and definitely not a lot of transparency to turkey farming in general. People think everything is organic … but it's not. There are a lot of misconceptions tied to organic food. We also face an ongoing challenge to help people understand where their food comes from, plus the differences in the raising practices between a small farm like ours and larger farms ...
What's your relationship status?Married for 8 years
Do you have children?Yes, two.
What is your attitude about money?It’s not about what you spend, it’s about what you have.
Where is the farthest you have traveled to? Where would you like to go?Furthest is Greece or Spain. Everywhere - love traveling! Love to experience other cultures. When I have more time and am not in business 24/7, which is what it takes and then some, I'd love to travel.
If you could meet a few famous people, dead or alive, who would they be?Jesus, neat. Meeting The Rock would be pretty cool, too.
TELL US ABOUT A DAY ON THE FARM: When does your day start and end?
It is a 24/7 situation. We have live animals that we’re tending to and caring for. So in spring, when we’re receiving poults, baby turkeys, it's all hands on deck ... making sure they’re happy and getting situated in the barn with access to food, water, heat. It’s a very busy time! As we go through the year and seasons, the processing and shipping of the turkeys is non-stop. Plus, for me, the work really turns into talking with customers all the time, confirming orders, and getting our thoughtfully raised products in front of customers.
I work in the middle of the farm – the original farm, but I'm not tending to turkeys every single day. There are periods that I’m on the ranch and checking things, while my brother Jason is on the ranch everyday. I spend more of my time with customers, but I also have hats that I wear on the ranch. I work from the ranch and pitch in on the ranch throughout the month.
What makes you HAPPY in a day on the farm?It’s really rewarding to be out on the ranches, to be with the turkeys, seeing them happy and healthy. In a time that’s so intangible, being with them is the exact opposite. It’s a hands-on, tangible experience.
The more tangibles you have, the more well-rounded and happier you are. You can see it, and it hits all of your senses. The world goes so quickly, so fast, and there are more discussions about our mental health, which is why being in the outdoors is so essential. Farming is such a humbling experience.
What makes you FRUSTRATED?There’s not a lot that you can control. You have to find understanding - it's so hard when you just can’t control something like weather issues. Plus, we raise our birds without antibiotics. So, if you’ve got a flock that’s not doing well, there’s a high attrition rate, and this can be very challenging, frustrating, and very expensive. There are un-beautiful parts of farming, but that’s also part of what is great. You never get too far ahead of the parts you can't control, or they’ll come back and slap you in the face!
What's the BEST part of a day?The very best part is when customers reach out and say how they love a product or have had an amazing experience with our product. A testimonial like, “I never liked this until I had yours,” that’s really rewarding - and from a holistic perspective. We’ve been involved in the whole process, from where it starts when the poults are born, watching them grow until they are full-grown, to the process where we ship and send them out to customers. And then, just seeing how this makes a difference in someone's life – and their lifestyle. It’s affirmation.
What's the WORST part of a day?The worst part … I try to take the worst parts in stride. It can get really chaotic and busy when we deal with the holiday timeframe. So in a year like 2020, wait - that’s the worst part of my day! The worst part is just this year! Customers are having such a tough time, and these 2020 business demands can be overwhelming. But we’re in an essential business, so we’re really happy to be able to help our clients out and be there for them.
Do you wear sunscreen?Yes.
Are you happy with what you farm?Yes, absolutely! The family got into turkey farming in our area many moons ago, and it's such a unique segment of the meat industry. I especially love being a part of the holiday experience - like Thanksgiving – and I know that it is making a difference! Outside of 4th of July, I don’t know what holiday is better! There’s a lot more that turkeys can do though, than just be the heart of our holidays. I love turkey farming – it’s a great industry.
What was the HARDEST part getting started?For me personally, it’s just understanding the consumer demands really, being agile and understanding of the next generation of shoppers and consumers. We look at cooking habits, buying trends; and as a manufacturer of food, we really have to take note of exactly what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and try to package up a product that’s desirable. That’s a lot to learn ...We make sure the business is healthy, vibrant, and that the consumers will want to purchase the product we’re putting into market.
What SURPRISED you about farming?Nothing really quite surprised me - maybe because I’ve been so close to it my whole life. I think what became more and more apparent is the way that our society eats turkey is really unique. We have sandwiches, and then we want to be healthy, so we eat ground turkey. It is an under-appreciated protein, but I ate turkey every meal practically! The more that we grew, the more that I ate it.
I didn’t realize that people didn’t have as much turkey as I was having growing up! People would be saying 'I want to make chicken enchiladas' … and I’d be like why not Turkey enchiladas?! Any meal made with chicken can be made with turkey! Not to mention, chicken has been so produced, it doesn’t have much flavor or texture, so we're trying to replace the other white meat! It's been a challenge.
What do you LOVE about farming?I love the turkeys' personalities. Working with turkeys, they’re quirky and funny animals. They love to be together … but then they hate to be together in a way. Barking and fussing at each other, but they can’t be out of their flock. Funny, quirky animals!
What lessons have you learned on the farm?My grandpa always told me, plus my dad and my mom, that being an entrepreneur and running your own farm as a leader (in a way) would really absorb your life and your identity. You just give ... give so much to make it successful, and they’re right. There’s no way to not give 150%+ to make it work. It doesn’t mean that you have to ensue into a state of chaos to get it done, but you have to be very present for your team…. always. I've also learned that I need to do something outside of work - with family - and this is very important. Of course, you can’t walk away for two weeks and expect everything to be ok. It depends on how big / small your farm is, most definitely, but you have to find those little, yet very important, moments of joy and diversity to feel refreshed and fulfilled.
Do you have any advice for fellow starting-out farmers?My advice for those starting out would be that when you think about farming, it can be romanticized, because it is more unique than most jobs in the world. If you are trying to get started and don’t know how, call on your local CSA farmers. Offer to help on ranches, learning about which aspect of farming really intrigues you. If you’re trying to start your own farm, find out what you like, then go work for a farmer for awhile (who does that) to get your wits about you. You might feel smart enough, with capital, too, but you need the experience. You can get it from this. Whatever you’re working on and striving for, you’ll know a bit more about what you’re getting into. There’s a lot to it, so don't underestimate those beginning, fundamental steps.
Anything to say to those who aren’t farmers?Value where your food comes from and be wiling to pay more. Typically we are seeing a lot of folks talk about organic options and access to better quality food. But then you come to the grocery store and the local CSA farmer has their organic tomatoes for sale, and they’re sitting right next to conventional tomatoes, and it might be $.70 difference per pound, and the shopper buys the conventional because they don’t want to pay the difference. Yet, the density, the quality, and the nutritional value is 4x the $.70 cost difference. Simply not buying a Starbucks would help make a difference, both to farmers and to your health. We are paying for it later in life, with ailments that we have because we are lacking nutrients. We need to eat the food near us, that’s grown near us… not coming from overseas. If we go back 150 years, ag was based in your local area … and that is where that specific food shines, and it’s the food we should be eating. I’m in California and can get so many things locally. If you’re in a cold zone like Wyoming or Montana, obviously you won't have access to fresh fruits and veggies all year long, but that doesn’t meant that the CSA farmers in the area don’t offer that in their greenhouses. You’re always going to have some type of food being grown there. So, we’re taking the $.70 difference and letting that be the driving factor. We need to look at buying food like voting with our dollars. Ask yourself, what ecosystem do you want to support?
Also, the supply chain is very different for a Walmart vs. the CSA farmer. It’s inherently different, even though it’s just an organic tomato. The spread of our products to conventional stores is sometimes $.25 to $1.00 difference, but the taste and quality is inherently different.
Where do you think you'll be in 5 or 10 years?
I hope for .... a good, healthy business, a thriving family, healthy kids, happy children, good community, plus healthy, happy people who work with us at the ranch, and for seeking out and finding the balance and the small moments of joy.
When you’re constantly in search for extraordinary, you really miss out on the daily joys. We might not be feeding the entire world, but we are feeding those people who want what we offer, and we hope that they continue to seek us out ... And on a personal level, I hope I'll be having some great moments on a porch, and maybe having a 3-ingredient margarita every now and then.